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Germany’s Planned Coal Exit Hits A Wall

Dave Keating, Forbes

Germany’s task force for phasing out coal was meant to launch this week, but yesterday the government quietly announced it is delaying the kick-off. It is the third time the coal exit commission’s launch has been delayed.

German coal power plants, source: Stepmap

The task force has become so controversial – even before it comes into existence – that the government can’t get it started. Since the idea was proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year, it has been plagued by fighting over who will lead it, what it will do, and how much power it will have.

There have been arguments about the most minute aspects of the committee, such as what it should be called, who should be in it, and what it should list as its deliverables.

Despite the delays, Berlin is insisting that it will stick to its time line of setting an end date for the use of coal in Germany by the end of the year. This was a central part of the coalition agreement between Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats agreed in January, setting the stage for the Merkel’s third government which star in March.

A previous attempt to form a coalition government between the Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens collapsed under the weight of intense disagreements between the free-market Liberals and environmentalist Greens over the coal phase out. The latter said it was essential to any coalition agreement, but the former said it was unacceptable. […]

Coal is Germany’s single-largest source of carbon emissions, and analysts have said there is no way the country can meet its long-term climate goals without quitting coal. Germany wants to be carbon-neutral by 2050. The country currently gets 40 percent of its energy from coal, a number that has risen since Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in 2011, after the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan.

The task force is a mammoth project, involving eight German federal ministries, six German states, and perhaps up to 20 utilities and companies. The German website ZfK has published a leaked provisional list of the participants.

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